Notes from Joe:

For this first installment I thought I would encourage you to listen to Dan Forrest's "Requiem for the Living." It is a work that we will perform in April 2021 to celebrate our 50th and First Congregational Church of Chatham's 300th! I think the music also offers a little peace amid the frightening and uncertain times in which we are living. The program notes to this newer work states, "A Requiem, at its core, is a prayer for rest- traditionally, for the deceased. The five movements of Dan Forrest's  Requiem for the Living,  (2013), however, form a narrative just as much for the living, and their own struggle with pain and sorrow, as for the dead."
Notes from Joe:

This is one of my own favorite music compositions, a performance of Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus. The text is taken from Psalm 51 in the Hebrew Bible. This musical work was written for a Holy Week liturgy in 1638 and was only to be sung in the Sistine Chapel. According to tradition, this musical work was ordered by the Pope to be kept a secret from the rest of the world because of its extreme beauty. Only three copies of the score were originally made and the piece remained unknown to the outside world for nearly 100 years. But one day, the piece was sung while a 14 year-old boy named, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sat in the pews of the Sistine Chapel. The child prodigy, clearly moved by the music, returned to where he was staying later that day and wrote out the entire piece from memory! Later the Mozart's traveled to London and the piece was given to a noted music historian. The piece was finally published in London in 1771 and was no longer a secret to the Papal community of the Sistine Chapel!
Notes from Joe:

Johann Sebastian Bach was almost completely forgotten about after his death in 1750. Unlike other Baroque composers, like Handel and Vivaldi, Bach was not “world famous” during his lifetime. Bach, and all of us, owe a great deal of gratitude to Felix Mendelssohn, and a few others, for introducing the music of this German organist and composer to a later generation and eventually to a world-wide audience. Bach successfully composed music in almost every genre known to German Baroque audiences. While he never composed an opera, he was criticized, especially in the realm of church music, for writing music that was considered too “operatic.”
 
Of the approximately 200 cantatas that exist today, I call your attention to one in particular.  Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be still, stop chattering), BWV 211, is more commonly known as the “Coffee Cantata.” This incredible work is a secular cantata, not intended for church, and is perhaps the closest Bach came to writing and opera. During his Leipzig years, Bach was the director of the  Collegium Musicum , a venue for university students to write and perform music. The “Coffee Cantata” was music Bach composed for this musical community. 
 
In Germany during Bach’s day, coffee was a very popular drink. This cantata, which only requires three vocalists, depicts a father highly concerned about his daughter drinking too much coffee! The third singer, the narrator, helps set up the story and bring it to a close. The three are accompanied by a typical “orchestra” of the day. Below is a link of Ton Koopman leading an “authentic” performance of the work. Koopman attempts to recreate the setting this cantata would have experienced by the composer and audience. Bach would have “conducted,” as Koopman does, from the harpsichord. The recording has English subtitles so the wonderful humor contained in this work is not lost!
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